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Ebrahim College

Visiting Scholar: Professor Dr Datuk Osman Bakar (University Brunei Darussalam)

Professor Dr Datuk Osman Bakar visited Ebrahim College on Saturday 22nd March 2015. He met with staff and students and spoke about the advancement of technology in Islam – amongst many other topics. Below you read some notes taken at the discussion.



Professor Dr Datuk Osman Bakar

Dr Osman Bakar is Chair Professor and Director of the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS), University Brunei Darussalam, and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. He has published 18 books and over 300 articles on Islamic thought and civilization, particularly on Islamic philosophy and science. He also writes on contemporary Islam and inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue. His writings have been translated into many languages. He has served as advisor and consultant to a variety of international academic and professional organizations and institutions, including UNESCO and The Qatar Foundation. He served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Malaya (1995–2000) and was awarded a Datukship by the Malaysian King in 2000.


Notes from the talk

  • In any discussion it is important that we begin by defining terms. This is the method of the Qur’an.
  • The Arabic word for philosophy is فلسفة which is from the Greek. Etimologically it means ‘love of wisdom’.
  • Al-Farabi was the first to comprehensively classify sciences.
  • Ibn Sina, Ibn Haytham, Qutbut Deen Shirazi were all ‘philosopher scientists’.
  • external/macrocosm/objective reality – internal/microcosm/subjective reality: in modern science, one or other is studied, in particular, the external. In the islamic paradigm, both were studied together.
  • Farabi’s classification: linguistic scientists; logic and the art of thinking; natural sciences; mathematical sciences;
  • Omar Khayyam wasn’t just a poet but the greatest mathematician of the middle ages.
  • Mathematics is the bridge between physics and metaphysics
  • Farabi: collectivity of the sciences was what he meant by philosophy
  • Khayyam says, for any subject to be considered a proper science (rather than a pseudo science) it had to cover four things:

a. Well defined object of study: موضوع.

b. Define foundational assumptions: مقدمات.

c. Methods

d. Goals

  • In every science there is art and in every art there is science.
  • It’s not true that philosophy and science collapsed after Ghazzali. Look at Ottoman science and technology for example.
  • We have to consider the idea of the philosophy of technology. The Islamic philosophy of technology may be the reason why islamic technology didn’t advance as rapidly as western technology did. Ethics is a major part of this. For example, the Islamic philosophy of tech would not agree with the western philosophy that ‘you do something because you can’.
  • Providing new values for technology is what the world needs. An islamic example would be that technology should be proportional to the problems of society. If not, society is not happy.
  • Modern medicine does not even have a clear definition of health.
  • One of the missions of Islam based on tawheed is synthesis.
  • • Art: there are things that can be written and things that can’t. traditionally art was passed down orally from generation to generation. For example, no one can deny the existence of architecture in the Islamic world. But it does not exist as a codified written art/science. Art = فن \صناعة. The natural ability to produce things according to certain unwritten rules.
March 25, 2015

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